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Seafood direct marketing: Sea Grant experts contribute to UN report

Story by: Katherine Leitzell, California Sea Grant


For commercial fishing enterprises and other seafood businesses, alternative marketing arrangements, such as direct sales to consumers, can be a great way to increase sales or diversify a customer base. 


Sea Grant extension personnel have served as trusted advisors to the US fishing industry for decades, and have developed several go-to information sources for fishermen interested in alternative marketing. These include Alaska Sea Grant’s Fishermen’s Direct Marketing Manual first published in 1997 and California Sea Grant’s Market Your Catch website. 


A new report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) now brings this Sea Grant expertise to a global audience. The report provides useful case studies from leading fisheries experts around the world to address recommendations contained in FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines to Secure Small-Scale Fisheries. The guidelines, published in 2015, aim to support sustainable small-scale fisheries as an important part of the food system, end hunger and poverty, and strengthen human rights. 


California Sea Grant and Alaska Sea Grant contributed a case study to the report highlighting the approach Sea Grant extension personnel take in working with fishing communities, and the information products they have created since the mid 1990s.


“The goal of this publication was to share the Sea Grant approach to direct marketing with a diverse audience around the world,” says Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Agent Sunny Rice, who authored the new publication together with Victoria Baker of Alaska Sea Grant and California Sea Grant extension specialists Carrie Pomeroy and Carolynn Culver. “What’s unique about Sea Grant is the way that we work with individuals—there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and we don’t try to prescribe one.”


Instead, Sea Grant provides information and decision-making tools to help fishermen and fishing communities determine what will work best for them over the long term. 


The FAO report comes at a time when many in the fishing industry are challenged by disruptions in the food supply chain, including temporary restrictions on serving food to customers at restaurants, an important component of the seafood supply system in the US and in some other countries. “With everything that’s been going on with COVID-19, there has been a lot of interest in direct marketing throughout the seafood supply chain, be it fishermen, shellfish farmers, seafood handlers or distributors,” says Culver. “We hope the FAO report and associated materials will be useful for coastal communities as they consider ways to provide seafood to consumers.” 


Pomeroy adds, “Seafood direct marketing has distinct advantages in certain settings, but it’s not right for everyone. It’s also important to recognize that this situation is going to have a longer trajectory and lasting implications. So businesses should be careful to keep a long-term view, while working to weather the current situation.”


Sea Grant programs around the country have been working together to provide information and support during this time. The national Sea Grant office recently published a resources page that includes information on aid and assistance programs, resources on processing, marketing and distribution, and human health, and extension network contacts. In addition, the National Sea Grant Law Center has created a COVID-19 resources page with information on the CARES Act and other relevant legislation and programs for the fishing, aquaculture and seafood industries.


Read the full FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper:  Securing sustainable small-scale fisheries: Showcasing applied practices in value chains, post-harvest operations and trade

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